Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Night Terrors - a father's breakthrough

Night terrors 2 nights in a row. We've had them a number of times, probably over the past 8 or 9 months. A girl cries out, we go to her but she can't be consoled, and thrashes around while letting out an unnerving cry that borders on a scream.

I have often got there first, Beloved being asleep on the couch, but that's made it worse. She looks at me - eyes sometimes open but incomprehending - and cries louder, calling for Beloved. Soon she gets what she wants but even Beloved can't calm her for a while. Official advice is that this is fine, and you simply need to keep them company, and safe, until the terrors pass. But when your daughter is violently upset in the middle of the night this is no consolation and I'm still reluctant to accept that it does no harm.

It feels as though she needs protecting, from something, and I'm limping out of the room having failed my duty as a dad.

Last night they started again and I went straight up. I stayed out of her way, and rested my hand on her torso while saying quiet words of reassurance. She started to wind up and I let her move around, just keeping the same level of contact and talk. I stayed with the one response rather than giving in and trying to hug her or tuck her back in. She was getting more upset, but didn't move into the usual daddy-rejection phase.

Then she took a break, and started the fusting; a Bear's soft pinching that she uses to bond, usually on the back of the hands. She fusted, let out a sigh, and I started to feel hope. I waited. There were a couple of further minor false starts when she let out a few cries and moved a little, but we were on the closing stretch.

She drifted back off to sleep. No full-scale crying, no 20 minutes of parental despair, and perhaps most of all for me no rejection and sense of helplessness.

The rest of the night? Like a bomb.

On a lighter note, in relation to crying infants, love that Blue Milk tags her column on Bringing up Baby under child hatred bigotry. Guess she's not switching to the Truby King method either...


JahTeh said...

I remember the whimpers in the night and that was just the dog who'd been hoofed out of her bed by a sleepwalking child who was in dreamland curled up in the basket.

Armagny said...

Oh how cute- though perhaps not for puppy doggy!

Mishela said...

Aaah the night terrors, poor wee things, they are actually still asleep even though they might have their eyes open. Is a funny thing that most toddlers go through, sort of coincides with discovering new feelings, anger, fright etc. NOTHING to do with parenting, everything to do with growing up. Breaks your heart but they do grow out of it.
I've been reading all your parenthood entries....... love them, you speak beautifully about your loved ones :)
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